Going crazy over a peck!

Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty on the cheek; all hell breaks loose in India.

Shilpa Shetty - Richard Gere kiss picture

17 April, 2007

These Indians are crazy, that’s must be what the world is thinking right now. A peck on the cheek by a celebrity to another on an open stage makes India go wild. Looking at the reaction to the kiss in the western media (and in the Indian media), there is certainly reason to believe so.

Now, before you blow your top, let me also add that what the West thinks about such stuff should not dictate our behavior. We should feel disgusted with the reaction to the kiss Richard Gere planted on Shilpa Shetty's cheek in its own right irrespective of what the world thinks about it.

When Hollywood actor and activist Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty shared the dais at the India Habitat Centre in the national capital New Delhi to highlight a cause joining truck drivers in creating awareness about HIV and AIDS , no one knew the actual cause would be forgotten. An impromptu kiss and dance routine with Shilpa Shetty was all that Gere attempted, but the moral police in India are up in arms.

Overreacting to an absolutely trivial issue, the Shiv Sainiks attacked a press meet and the sets of a film shoot in Mumbai. Shilpa Shetty responded that the whole issue has been blown out of proportion. According to her, “If protecting Indian culture and tradition means burning our, effigies, please go ahead and do it. But our culture also teaches us "atithi devo bhava" (Guest is God). I feel people are overreacting. Don't misuse the freedom of expression in a democracy”. Understandably, Shilpa has also accused the media too of making a mountain out of a mole hill.

Obviously, Shilpa has defended Gere saying that he was just trying to strike a dancing pose. Says she: “In India entertainment means song and dance, so he was trying to do something entertaining. That's it. He didn't try to kiss me on my lips. He was just giving me a peck on my cheeks”.

However, the moral police are not prepared to let go of an opportunity that came their way. Protests have been reported from places like Varanasi, Meerut and Indore.

Significantly, an incident as this may have far reaching impact. Gere, respected for his commitment to HIV and AIDS awareness projects. But this one proved to be a flaw. Damage-control by Shilpa doesn’t seem to help him either. May be the Hollywood actor must have thought he could provide some light entertainment to the cinema crazy public and went ahead hugging and kissing Shilpa.

Assuming that the kiss was against Indian culture, that still does not justify the protestors. Shilpa is an actress in Bollywood movies, which often feature things far more suggestive than kisses. She has worn clothes which are obviously not inspired by the Ramayana. She has participated in a British reality show, and reality shows have nothing to do with whatever these people mean by Indian culture either. And the last time I checked, there was no law in India requiring all Indian citizens and visiting foreigners to act strictly in accordance with 'Indian culture'.

The main issue, sadly, is forgotten. The media, unfortunately, saw sensation instead of the real news. They endlessly replayed the scene on TV, printed photos in the newspapers, and sites and channels invited people to vote on whether the kiss was in good taste, and did they overstep 'boundaries'. The cause for which Richard Gere was here was ignored. Do the media really feel anything wrong was done? It would have been right to ignore the issue believing that it was all done in good humor. Protests, violence is our way of life. And, sadly, the media plays Nero.




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